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Leon: The Professional
Year:
1994
Country:
France
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
8.6
Director:
Luc Besson
Jean Reno as Léon
Gary Oldman as Stansfield
Natalie Portman as Mathilda
Danny Aiello as Tony
Peter Appel as Malky
Willi One Blood as 1st Stansfield man
Don Creech as 2nd Stansfield man
Keith A. Glascoe as 3rd Stansfield man (Benny)
Randolph Scott as 4th Stansfield man
Michael Badalucco as Mathilda's Father
Ellen Greene as Mathilda's Mother
Elizabeth Regen as Mathilda's Sister
Carl J. Matusovich as Mathilda's Brother
Frank Senger as Fatman
Storyline: After her father, mother, older sister and little brother are killed by her father's employers, the 12-year-old daughter of an abject drug dealer is forced to take refuge in the apartment of a professional hitman who at her request teaches her the methods of his job so she can take her revenge on the corrupt DEA agent who ruined her life by killing her beloved brother.
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Reviews
A film that is near perfection
Whenever I asked people a list of their favourite films, Leon often found its way in their repitoire of fantastic films. Considering it was released in 1994, and I only saw it for the first time in Autumn 2011, my first thoughts after watching Leon were: 'how have I not seen this masterpiece until now?'. It was truly one of the most mind-blowing Television experiences of my life.

The plot itself is nothing spectacularly original- a deadly assassin (Leon played by Jean Reno) who keeps his business to himself in order to survive, fosters a young girl (Natalie Portman) whose family is executed because the father was hoarding drugs from a crazy drug-dealer (Gary Oldman) who is also a corrupt policeman. The young girl fortunately went to the shop while her family were massacred, and when she returns, she pleads to Leon to save her life. She discovers that Leon is secretly an assassin, and because she has lost her family, she asks Leon to teach her how to become an assassin so she can claim revenge on those responsible for murdering her family. In exchange, she offers to teach Leon to read and write and improve his social skills. (he is pretty much illiterate). Although at first he refuses her request, eventually he relents and teaches her the tricks of his trade.

The three main actors in the film play their parts incredibly; Jean Reno as Leon plays his part so convincingly as an uneducated and detached assassin that you could almost believe that he is one in real life, Natalie Portman plays the mischievous, witty and headstrong young girl who seems older than her age with excellence,arguably her best performance that is only rivaled by her great performance in 'The Black Swan', and Gary Oldman portrays the psychotic drug-dealing policeman with such finesse only a few actors could pull off without spoiling the main villain of the story.

What makes this film truly powerful to the eyes of the viewer is the bond between Leon and the girl- at first they are completely incompatible, but as they spend more time with one another, they become more versed in each others manners and skills, and become so in love with one another that they become inseparable, in lifestyle, and in their missions.

I originally watched the un-cut version of the film, and after buying the film to discover it cut out several scenes, I was pretty disappointed. I can understand why- there were several scenes that were perhaps unsuitable for a young girl to be seen doing, but these scenes added great character and depth; they were included in the film for a great reason. What this film does excellently which few directors can imitate is deliver violence and explicit scenes with a perfect balance of seriousness and comedy. It brought both tears of joy and sadness to my eyes with equal measure. From beginning to end Leon never ceases to amaze and astonish. I cannot think of anything that could be changed or done to make 'Leon' a better film- it is a film that is as near to perfection as any film gets.
2012-03-26
Great movie
Greetings from Lithuania.

"Léon" (1994) is essentially a movie with everything working so well that you might forgive it's lunatic plot and enjoy for what it is - a movie. The plot is like a fairytale for adults, that would never happen in real life, and there aren't people who live like Leon, nor there are 12 years old girls who can come armed with two weapons into police headquarters with main goal to kill a detective. But this is a movie for god-sake, and a great one it is.

It is very sentimental, but that is just one of the parts that makes it's unique and unforgettable. Character are drawn very sharp in here and we start to care for both lead from the opening sequence of them together - that is because of performances, great and simple script and wonderful chemistry between two leads - this is still i think one of the very best performances by Natalie Portman. Directing, cinematography are great, with some clearly visible style and mood trough the film, which makes it feel like a unique - still.

Overall, "Léon" is great action film with lots of well made sentiments. Performances are amazing by all three actors (Oldman including), but it's Natalie who steals the show. Add craftsmanship which creates this unique style, simple but sharp script and tons of sentimental moments (but not to much) and a bit coming of age story and you will get a mix of superb motion picture, a true fairytale for adults. This is a great picture. Still.
2015-11-02
This movie will grab you by the throat and will not let go.
Léon is one of my favorite movies of all time although I'm not a fan of action movies at all. I've seen it already so many times and still I can't get enough of it. I don't know what it is that makes this movie so attractive. I guess it is because of the great acting by all actors and the fact that Besson has made a really surprising movie with characters who aren't what you would expect.

Léon is a professional hit man, but he isn't cold hearted as you might think. He's a nice man who doesn't know how to read, who only drinks milk and who's best friend is a plant... Admit it, that's not what you would expect from a hit man. The same for Matilda, the 12-year old girl that he protects since her family was blown to pieces by a crazy Beethoven-loving drug lord. She's only 12, but she already acts like an adult and she wants to become a "cleaner" like Léon so she can take revenge on her little brother's murderers.

This movie isn't just an action movie or a thriller. It's also a drama with a lot of comedy. You might think this wouldn't work out well, but it does. Don't ask me how, but Besson has made a solid movie out of it that will grab you by the throat from the first minute on, not to let you go until hours after it finished... This is what people call a masterpiece I guess. 10/10.
2004-11-20
Amazing Movie...
Besson seems fascinated by the "Pygmalion" story, by the notion of a feral street person who is transformed by education. He crosses that with what seems to be an obsession with women who kill as a profession. These are interesting themes, and if "The Professional" doesn't work with anything like the power of "La Femme Nikita," it is because his heroine is 12 years old, and we cannot persuade ourselves to ignore that fact. It colors every scene, making some unlikely and others troubling. The film opens with one of those virtuoso shots which zips down the streets of New York and in through a door, coming to a sudden halt at a plate of Italian food and then looking up at its owner. Besson must have been watching the opening of the old Letterman show. The man eating the food is a mob boss, played by Danny Aiello, who wants to put a contract on a guy. The man who has come whizzing through the streets is Leon (Jean Reno), a skillful but uneducated "cleaner," or professional hit-man. We see him at work, in opening scenes of startling violence and grim efficiency. In the course of the movie, Leon will, in effect, adopt his neighbor Matilda (Natalie Portman), a tough, streetwise, 12-year old girl. She escapes to Leon's nearby apartment after her family has been wiped out by a crooked top DEA enforcer named Stansfield (Gary Oldman), who wants to kill her too. Matilda wants to hire Leon to avenge the death of her little brother; in payment, she offers to do his laundry. Leon wants nothing to do with the girl, but she insists, and attaches herself like a leech. Eventually she develops an ambition to become a cleaner herself. And their fate plays out like those of many another couple on the lam, although with that 30-year age difference. Matilda is played with great resourcefulness by Portman, who is required by the role to be, in a way, stronger than Leon. She has seen so many sad and violent things in her short life, and in her dysfunctional family, that little in his life can surprise her. She's something like the Jodie Foster character in "Taxi Driver," old for her years. Yet her references are mostly to movies: "Bonnie and Clyde didn't work alone," she tells him. "Thelma and Louise didn't work alone. And they were the best." (To find a 12-year old in 1994 who knows "Bonnie and Clyde" is so extraordinary that it almost makes everything else she does plausible.) So Leon finds himself saddled with a little sidekick, just when the manic Stansfield is waging a personal vendetta against him. Although "The Professional" bathes in grit and was shot in the scuzziest locations New York has to offer, it's a romantic fantasy, not a realistic crime picture. Besson's visual approach gives it a European look; he finds Paris in Manhattan. That air of slight displacement helps it get away with various improbabilities, as when Matilda teaches Leon to read (in a few days, apparently), or when Leon is able to foresee the movements of his enemies with almost psychic accuracy. This gift is useful during several action sequences in "The Professional," when Leon, alone and surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of law officers, is able to conceal himself in just such a way that when the cops enter an apartment in just such a manner, he can swing down from the ceiling, say, and blast them. Or he can set a trap for them. Or he can apparently teleport himself from one part of an apartment to another; they think they have him cornered, but he's behind them. So many of the movie's shoot-outs unfold so conveniently for him that they seem choreographed. The Oldman character sometimes seems to set himself up to be outsmarted, while trying to sneak up on Leon in any way not actually involving chewing through the scenery. The premise "La Femme Nikita" was that its heroine began as a thoroughly uncivilized character without a decent bone in her body, and then, after society exploited her savagery, she was slowly civilized through the love of a good, simple man. "The Professional" uses similar elements, rearranged. It is a well-directed film, because Besson has a natural gift for plunging into drama with a charged-up visual style. And it is well acted. But always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action. In a more serious movie, or even in a human comedy like Cassavetes' "Gloria," the child might not have been out of place. But in what is essentially an exercise - a slick urban thriller - it seems to exploit the youth of the girl without really dealing with it.
2015-07-16
Don't die not to watch this film!
"The Professional" is one of my favorite films. It is deliberately amazing, so I am fall in love with this film. Can a person fall in love with a film? Yes, I am. Despite the fact that 18 years have passed since the release of the film, its fame is still intact, and it is still watched by many person, also I am one of them. I watch it again and again. It makes me cry whenever I watch it especially, at the end of the film. Intercalarily, I love its soundtrack so much, because its melody affects me so bad. The film shows that there is a real love. One can understand the real love from relationship between Mathilda and Leon. Why I love Jean Reno is this film, and also I admire acting of Natalie Portman even she is at a young age in the film. My advice to anyone is that do not die not to watch this film!
2012-12-10
Monumental piece of cinema
*****Classic ****Excellent ***Good **Fair *Tragic

Review:

Leon is fast, lively, dark and magnificent all the way. At running just over 2 hours, Leon tells the story of a 12 year-old orphan girl who is taken in by a ruthless assassin who -at her request - trains her in the art of the hit man. At the heart of this masterpiece lies substance and ferocity that is done in such style and flair you would be blown away.

Beeson, who, previously had directed such films as Nikita and The Big Blue has simply crafted a film that no other director in Hollywood could have crafted. The music, acting, direction and story all pay off brilliantly and shed a light that hadn't been seen before. Take for example the acting, genuinely moving and emotionally charged. Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman all excel with dynamic and star powered performances. Gary Oldman is as brilliant as ever before making Stansfeild a corrupt and violent character one wouldn't want to cross. As for Reno's and Portman's performances they remain unchallenged.

Beeson delights when coming to the big action sequences. Fast, brutal and stylish in approach are the Beeson payoffs. The music plays like a self taught orchestra, scene after scene has a meandering and thoughtful score.

Verdict:

Leon is full of memorable scenes and characters. Beesons direction is top class and the front running performances are perfect.
2008-11-21
"Leon: The Professional" is a great film.
"Leon: The Professional" is a great movie from 1994. The director and the writer is Luc Besson. It is currently on NetFlix Instant Download Streaming. Luc Besson's movie Léon (The Professional) gives us an intense story which is maximized in potential by the casting of the movie done by Todd Thaler. Every aspect of the movie delivers to the audience and makes an impressive overall package. Jean Reno plays a character named Léon who has learned to repress his emotions in order to perform his job as a "cleaner", or hit-man. His secluded world is shattered by the young girl named Mathilda who lives on the same floor as he does in an apartment building. When she turns to him for help, he learns about living a normal life, even if the circumstances which unite them are far from normal. The performance delivered by then twelve-year old Natalie Portman as Mathilda is nothing short of brilliant. Her ability to relate to others with body movement and facial gestures is matched by few, she really brings raw emotion and believability to a difficult role. Mathilda and Léon are unexpectedly thrown together, but learn to value life from their chance encounter, and how valuable a friendship can be. Jean Reno as Léon gives us a solemn and calculated character who sets all of his energy on his assignments until her is given something else to care about. Mathilda gives him the daughter that he never had, while Léon serves as a father and friend to her. Gary Oldman, as the corrupt DEA Agent Norman Stansfield, offers the viewers an amazingly wired and electrical performance which pushes the envelope. He moves the story along by his actions. Oldman offers us a memorable portrait of a sadistically obsessed man who stops short of nothing to get what he wants. The Professional is what movie-making is all about. Without the overuse of special effects, a large shooting location, or a commercially star studded cast, we are given all that could possibly be asked for in a movie. Portman, Oldman, and Reno, along with Danny Aiello as the hit-contractor Tony remind us that there is no substitute for great acting. There are elements of comedy, drama, and action, and great original music by Eric Serra adds to the energy the film already encapsulates. The most impressive thing about the movie is its story which is basic but is maximized by all the other elements which go into the making of the movie. Simply put, an intense and impressive movie. I gave it 10 stars. Dale Haufrect
2015-05-20
A beautiful and disturbing piece of cinema
This is an extraordinary film, one of the rarities that successfully straddles the action and drama genres. A young girl from an abusive drug-dealing family approaches the smashed-in door of her apartment. Instinctively she realises that everyone has been murdered by the corrupt drug-squad officers standing at the door. Stifling her terror, she walks past to the door of another apartment and knocks on it as though it is her own home, praying that the strange neighbour will open the door and let her in… Luc Besson explores with great skill the unlikely relationship between Mathilde the 12-year old orphan and Leon: professional killer, immature loner and psychopath. Despite their apparent differences, the similarities are greater: Leon is childlike in many ways, whereas Mathilde (perhaps through necessity) demonstrates a ruthlessness that will give hardened criminals pause.

There is action a-plenty. At times it defies reality, although no more so than the action scenes in Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, and the character juxtaposition is way beyond what such films usually achieve.

Some of the negative reviews on this site are hard to believe: some don't like it because it depicts corrupt DEA agents (reality check people – every police agency has bad apples); others don't like it because it is said to push pedophilia (yet Besson goes out of his way to show that, despite having every opportunity, Leon firmly rejects any sexual relationship with Mathilde); others are disturbed by the thought that a 12-year old girl could contemplate revenge or seriously want to kill the men who murdered her little brother (again, sorry for the dose of reality but in some parts of the world children younger than this are soldiers, drug-dealers or worse); some reviewers are clearly disturbed by the "European" feel to the film (personal taste – I liked it).

The movie ends on a surprisingly optimistic note: Mathilde's wild proposal to work as an assassin is rejected by a horrified mafioso. Despite his amorality (and the obvious uses that someone in his position could find for her) he produces the money for her school fees and sends her packing. At school, she plants Leon's pet plant so that it can "put down roots" – a symbol that she herself is now going to do that, instead of the rootless life she has been living since the slaughter of her family.

Despite the violence and gore, the themes of the film are love (in the non-sexual sense), companionship and human need.
2010-08-08
Masterpiece
Leon (Jean Reno) is a tortured soul. He lives in squalor and misery, never truly happy or at peace with himself. After all, he is a hit- man. He lives quietly from kill to kill, harming no-one whom he has not been paid to assassinate. He is a simplistic, childlike man who lives by his own set of morals but is troubled by them. The one thing he seems to fear above all else is change.

Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is Leon's neighbor. A young girl, she lives with her father, step-mother, half-sister and half-brother. As unhappy as Leon, she lives in awe of the dark stranger, unaware of his true profession. Beaten by her parents and sister, she has abandoned school and instead spends the day watching cartoons and trying to escape from the real world.

When Mathilda's family is brutally murdered by a drug crazed Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman), her only chance for survival is to hide with her neighbor. When she learns of Leon's true identity, she becomes infatuated with both him, and the grim world he inhabits.

This stark portrayal of humanity and inhumanity is produced with the style and finesse that one expects from Luc Besson. In addition, the combined talents of Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman provide not only an unmatched on-screen chemistry, but also three perfectly created characterizations, the like of which are rarely seen in today's cinema. This film has my personal recommendation of being the best piece of cinema that I know of. I have not seen anything that matches it in terms of intensity or emotion - and believe me, I've looked. I found myself caring for the characters involved, an unique experience in itself. This is not the type of film for a night in with your mates, but nevertheless, it is an unforgettable piece of cinematic history
2015-03-24
That was an excellent one.
I have a quite specific criteria for rating a movie. It is by how memorable it is. It is by how much it shows you moments, dialogs, situations that get into your mind and which you think over and over again after the movie, without necessarily finding a deep philosophical meaning in them. Moments that left you enough of an impression to force you review and analyze them thoroughly. This film gives me what I am looking for. Leon and Mathilda are excellent characters and you really embrace their personalities, their spirit, their hardships, you watch their actions with agony and feel their will for carrying on in a cruel,unforgiving world. Stansfield is also excellent as the villain and shows the other side of the coin, that is how easy it is to fall into immorality and how much power that can give you in the system we live today. Go and watch that movie. I promise it will be memorable.
2015-08-11
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